With Connecticut College not playing a league game last weekend, Tufts’ 3-0 trouncing of Bates propelled the Jumbos into second place in the conference. Williams, unsurprisingly, remained unbeaten as a result of a 1-0 win against Wesleyan. The last weekend in regular season play is a decisiveness one. A win can give a team all the confidence and momentum in the world. A loss, however, may lead to unwanted questions going into the most crucial time of year. This weekend’s Tufts vs. Williams game will give everyone a taste of what is to come in the next few weeks.
Going into last weekend, the Tufts Jumbos felt confident about themselves; they were playing a faltering Bates team, and was ranked third in the conference. The Jumbos didn’t just beat Bates: they destroyed them. The scoring party began with Liz Reed ‘21, who notched two goals. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 complemented Reed’s goal with another one. This freshmen one-two punch has accumulated twelve goals this season. We’ve seen all year underclassmen making impacts on the offensive end of the pitch. This ‘Bos combo is no different. Reed and Lloyd account for two-thirds of all the Jumbos’ goals this year. The ‘Bos have all the momentum in the world with a young, potent offense and Emily Bowers’ ‘19 continued dominance in net. Bowers has consistently posted statistics in the top five of the league week in and week out.
Williams, in contrast, almost had a scare last Saturday in Middletown, CT, against the one win Wesleyan Cardinals. A foul in the box almost led to a Kinsey Yost goal, but GK Olivia Barnhill ‘19 bailed the Ephs out. A shaky first half definitely frightened the Ephs players and coaching staff because they came out as a different team in the second. A Jacqueline Simeone ‘18 goal only a few minutes into the second was the difference maker for the Ephs. The rest of the game, they played tight defense and reduced the mental mistakes, dominated time of possession, and kept Wesleyan on their heels; they looked like the Ephs we are accustomed to see. One player that stood out to me was Liz Webber ‘20. Her defensive play was incredible; she seemed to step at all the right times, while not letting any Wesleyan player beat her up the field.
This game will be a tightly contested battle. I suspect that it’ll be a defensive game in the first half. Both teams will try to feel out what the other is trying to do early on. In the second half, however, I think one team will break the game open. Scoring will be at a premium in this game, so expect a lucky bounce on a corner or positioning to be the sole difference maker. It’s a long drive from Medford to Williamstown. Williams will forever have a bullseye on its back as a result of being undefeated, and so far, they’ve proved why they’re the best team in the conference. It’ll be a playoff atmosphere on Saturday, and a game the Jumbos have waiting for for quite some time.
In any sport, I love picking the underdog. However, I believe the smart choice is picking the team with momentum because each player believes that they can win.
As we trudge through midterms and think about the glorious prospects of Fall break, NESCAC Women’s Soccer nears the end of its regular season with only two weekends left of conference play. Williams and Connecticut College sit atop the division, while Wesleyan and Colby round out the bottom. Tufts and Middlebury look to finish the regular season strong, and build momentum going into the playoff season.
Here are my mid-season power rankings:
1). Williams College Ephs
It’s hard to argue that any other team is more deserving of the number one spot in the power rankings. The Ephs have yet to lose a game all year, including conference and nonconference play. The Ephs are like the Patriots. When New England trailed Atlanta by twenty-five points, Falcons WR Taylor Gabriel told an arrogant Mohamed Sanu, “But they have Tom Brady, though” when Sanu stated the Patriots couldn’t come back. Two weeks ago, the Ephs edged the flaming hot Camels to break their hopes of an undefeated season on a seemingly harmless corner kick in OT. No matter how many goals the Ephs are down by, they are that team that always finds a way to come back. The most staggering statistic to point to the Ephs’ success is their goals against, which is a mere four goals (the next best GA team is Conn with six). Liz Webber ‘20 has come back this season from an injury that kept her out the entire 2016 campaign, and has been an integral part of the Ephs’ offensive and defensive prowess. The rest of the regular season schedule isn’t too challenging for the Ephs, but in all likelihood, they will have to beat the Camels if they want to fulfill their quest for a national championship.
2). Connecticut College Camels
The Camels didn’t disappoint the alumni at homecoming last weekend. They trounced the Bates Bobcats 3-0. I predicted the game would’ve been a tighter one; nevertheless, the Camels showed to the rest of the conference that they’re a special team. Before the season, many people believed that the conference hierarchy was the Ephs at the top, a fifty-foot drop, and then the next team, which wasn’t even comparable to the Ephs. The Camels replied to this statement, “No, not this year. There’s a new sheriff in town.” That sheriff is none other than Kat Norton ‘21. The freshman sensation is second in the conference in goals—notching two in the decisive win over Bates. Most teams rely on veteran players being the difference makers in conference games, so the unrelenting production from Norton has propelled Conn to one of the best teams in the conference. GK Bryanna Montalvo ‘18 has been one of the best in the NESCAC all year—giving her team a chance in tightly competitive games. A NESCAC championship between Conn and Williams would be a thriller, and the victor has a great shot at securing a national championship.
3). Middlebury College Panthers
The Panthers currently rank fourth in the NESCAC. They’re a very good team that excels on both sides of the field. A late goal in a 2-1 OT win over Wesleyan on Sunday showed the team’s tenacity. The conditions were brutal with a humid rain. With ten seconds left in the first overtime period, Eliza Van Voorhis ‘21 scored on a beautiful cross just outside the box from one of her Panther teammates. Wesleyan was just coming off a big win against Colby, and looked like they possessed all the momentum in the world. However, the persistence Middlebury showed by not giving up with only ten seconds to play in the overtime period illustrates that they’re going to be a good team down the stretch. If I were Conn or Williams, I would be worried in a 0-0 playoff game in the second-half against Midd.
4). Tufts University Jumbos
The Jumbos must be feeling left out. With all the noise Conn has made, Tufts hasn’t been giving the spotlight they deserve. They’ve put together a very good season thus far, ranking third in the NESCAC. GK Emily Bowers ‘19 has played quite impressively all season with her name in the top five of saves and save percentage. Sophie Lloyd ‘21 leads the team with an impressive five goals. The ‘Bos only have Bates and Bowdoin left on their schedule, which are winnable games. If they can do that, the ‘Bos will enough momentum to possibly knock off the league’s top dogs come playoff time.
5). Trinity College Bantams
After a mediocre start to the season, the Bantams are 2-0 in their past two conference games. Albeit the wins are against Wesleyan and Bowdoin, wins are wins no matter who they come against. The Bantams should be feeling good about themselves after those two conference wins. I predict, however, that those smiles will go away after they travel to both Middlebury and Connecticut College for their next two conference games. Rhone O’Hara ‘20 leads her team in points, and has been a force on defense throughout the year. Right now, the Bantams sit in the middle of the pack in the standings, but look for a fall after a ominous weekend.
6). Hamilton College Continentals
At this point in the season, the Continentals are trying to win out to avoid playing Williams or Conn in the first round. Therefore, these next two games are critical for them. This last weekend didn’t treat Hamilton too well with a loss against the Jumbos and a tie against Amherst. A win in both games would’ve propelled Hamilton up into the upper-tier of the standings. Now, they don’t carry much momentum from earlier in the season anymore. GK Emily Dumont ‘18 has been a stud in net, however. She has won the Continentals some games that could’ve gone either way. The goal scoring went dry last weekend, and that must change if Hamilton wants to have a deep playoff run.
7). Wesleyan University Cardinals
I avoid as much bias as I can in my writing, so choosing the one win Cardinals as the seventh team in my power rankings may be a shocker to some. Look, the Cardinals had some really tough breaks on Sunday. After a decisive win against Colby on Saturday, the team almost beat Middlebury on Sunday. One of the team’s best players, Liz Young ‘19, went down with an injury during the game. Another Cardinal injury only plagued them more. Even though the Cardinals haven’t looked great all year, Emily Ribatt ‘21 and Carly Bechtloff ‘21 have been key freshman contributors. Bechtloff’s hustle and keeping a play alive in the corner led to a nifty Ribatt cross, which tallied the only Cardinal goal in the Middlebury game. It is premature to say, however, that the Cardinals have a good chance at making the playoffs since Williams comes to Middletown on Saturday. Sports are weird, though. Anything can happen.
8). Bates College Bobcats
A week ago, I would’ve put the Bobcats at least top five in these rankings. An upset loss to Bowdoin last Wednesday and a loss to Conn on Saturday have really turned the Bobcats’ season upside down. I know that Conn was going to be a really hard game to win, but Bowdoin represented a winnable game. Losses like that hurt down the stretch because as a lower seed in the playoffs, the Bobcats will likely face the Ephs or Camels. The Bobcats have depended way too much on GK Sarah McCarthy ‘18. She leads the league in saves, and has shown she’s one of the best in the conference. Bates’ fall from the top of the league has been surprising, but their season isn’t over. The toughest games are out of their way, and winning out is a must to avoid Williams and Conn in the early rounds of the playoffs.
9). Bowdoin College Polar Bears
Bowdoin, unlike Bates, must’ve felt really good about themselves after Wednesday’s game. Any win against a Maine NESCAC opponent is significant. Right now, Bowdoin’s on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture. They aren’t a hot team, so facing Hamilton and Conn next week will be tough. Picking up a win against Hamilton would be huge, but I don’t see that happening. Look for the Polar Bears to stay around #9 in the power rankings through the rest of the regular season.
10). Amherst College Mammoths
To say this season has been a disappointment for Amherst is an understatement. Normally, Amherst is really good. Like really good in just about everything— sound familiar, Williams? Therefore, a single win in conference play so far is quite shocking for an Amherst team. They’re scoring goals, but simultaneously they’re letting way too many in. They’re tied with Bates for the league’s worst in goals against. With only a few weeks left in the season and without much playoff hope, it’s now all about pride for Amherst.
11). Colby College Mules
In my high school’s athletic conference, there were numerous awards. The top team award was obviously the league championship. Nevertheless, all the awards were great, except one: the sportsmanship award. In New England prep school athletics, sportsmanship was code for ‘we feel bad for you’. In watching Colby play, they’re not a bad team, they’re really not. They don’t deserve the ‘sportsmanship’ award. A lot of the games they’ve lost were close. Obviously someone has to be last in the power rankings, but I will make excuses for Colby. They’re much better than their record. Look for a turnaround in the 2018 season because Colby truthfully has nowhere to go but up.